Beating the January Blues

bird with blue feathers on a background of white snow
January Blues [noun]

Feeling low or down in January with a lack of motivation, usually due to cold weather and dark mornings.

The January Blues are a common occurrence every year, after the excitement and busyness of the festive season it’s normal to feel a little flat. It’s cold, we’re tired, December pay-day seemed like months ago…

The third Monday of January is also commonly known as Blue Monday, the gloomiest day of the year, and this year it falls on 17th January. Typically, Blue Monday is thought to be the day that we abandon our New Year’s Resolutions, and the day that we all feel our lowest.

The good news is, this is totally untrue!

After being coined by psychologist and life coach Cliff Arnall while working as a tutor at the Centre for Lifelong Learning, Blue Monday was actually adopted as a marketing tactic by a company trying to sell holidays. While January Blues are common, there is no scientific evidence to back up the fact that the third Monday of the month is the dullest day of the year.

Top tips for overcoming the January Blues

So, whilst Blue Monday may be a made-up concept, the January Blues are definitely real for many of us. Here are our top tips for overcoming them:

Acknowledge your feelings

It is important to acknowledge how you’re feeling at this time of year. It’s likely that you’re not alone if you’re feeling down and recognising and acknowledging these feelings is a great first step to overcoming them.

If you find it difficult to recognise how you’re feeling, it can be helpful to write down events and situations throughout the day, and then reflect on these in the evening to identify how they made you feel.

Keep a consistent routine

If you can, try to establish a consistent routine to stick to. This will be helpful at times that you feel a lack of motivation, as it will provide structure and something to aim for each day. Include something each morning or evening that you enjoy, or that you find calming and relaxing.

For example, you could start each morning with a glass of water, some gentle stretches or some breathing exercises. You could also spend 10 minutes journalling at the end of your day or read 10 pages of a book each night before bed

Schedule things to look forward to

If you’ve had a busy festive season catching up with family and friends, January can feel long and boring. Scheduling things that you can look forward to can help break up the long month, and the process of planning things can lift your mood too.

It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant such as a trip to the theatre or a weekend away, it can be something as simple as arranging to meet a friend for a coffee or planning to visit a new location for a dog walk.

Blocking out time to relax and do things you enjoy is beneficial for both your physical and mental health. Research shows that partaking in hobbies that you enjoy and are passionate about reduces your chances of suffering from stress and/or low mood, and lowers your blood pressure! (Sarah D. Pressman et al., 2009)

Read some more tips on how to incorporate self-care into your daily routine. 

Get outside during daylight hours, if possible, even just for 10 minutes

The days are short in January, which means we can often be travelling to work before sunrise, and it is dark again before we return home. Ensuring that you get outside for some sunlight during the day can be beneficial to both your physical and mental wellbeing.

Our bodies produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, which contributes to keeping our muscles, bones, and teeth healthy.

Research has also proven that vitamin D deficiency is linked to a higher risk of certain mental health conditions.

Try a wake-up light alarm clock

Wake-up light alarm clocks stimulate the natural light from sunrise, and are a gentler alternative to a loud, beeping alarm! Modern alarm clocks cause a sudden disruption in our sleep, which can leave us feeling groggy.

Wake-up light alarm clocks replicate waking up naturally to daylight, as we would in a natural environment. Research has shown that light exposure during the last 30 minutes of sleep can increase alertness and improve both cognitive and physical performance after waking. (Andrew Thompson et al., 2014)

Talk about how you’re feeling

January can be a tough time but remember you’re not alone. Tell family and friends how you’re feeling, and you may find that they are experiencing similar emotions. Keep the dialogue open, and remember that the brighter days are coming, literally! As of 23rd December 2021, the days are gradually getting longer.

If you’re struggling, and you’d prefer to speak with someone anonymously, you can contact Samaritans on 116 123, or email: [email protected] for a reply within 24 hours.


Sarah D. Pressman, Karen A. Matthews, Sheldon Cohen, Lynn M. Martire, Michael Scheier, Andrew Baum, and Richard Schulz, (2009). Association of Enjoyable Leisure Activities with Psychological and Physical Well-Being.

Andrew Thompson, Helen Jones, Warren Gregson & Greg Atkinson (2014). Effects of dawn simulation on markers of sleep inertia and post-waking performance in humans.


Photo by Amy Reed on Unsplash.

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